German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a phone conversation with Italy’s new Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on June 2. She invited him to Berlin for further discussions on the two countries’ future relationship.
According to a statement issued by the chancellor’s office, Merkel congratulated Conte on becoming prime minister. During their conversation, the two leaders emphasised the importance of “continued close bilateral cooperation,” the statement added.
As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, Conte, a little-known Italian law professor, has mostly kept quiet since being sworn in on June 1, but he announced on Facebook that, along with Merkel, he had also held talks with France’s Emmanuel Macron on June 2. He said he would meet the two leaders at next week’s G7 summit in Canada, where he will be a “spokesman for the interests of Italian citizens”.
When it comes to assessing Italy’s new governing coalition, made up of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) and the far-right League, DW noted that Merkel has remained among the calmer voices.
Both parties campaigned on a policy platform that was characteristically hostile toward the European Union and the euro.
However, Merkel’s composure has not necessarily been reflected elsewhere in Germany. The latest edition of German weekly Der Spiegel, published on June 1, featured on its cover a forkful of spaghetti with a dangling strand tied together as noose. “Italy is destroying itself – and dragging down Europe with it,” the headline read.
In an interview with Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Merkel said solidarity among eurozone members should not turn the single currency bloc into a “debt union”.
The German chancellor was responding to reports that the Italian government plans to ask the European Central Bank (ECB) to forgive some €250bn in debt. The ECB issued a statement saying the European treaties would not allow for such a move in the first place.